The last couple who lived in our house got divorced. From moving in as a happy family to selling amid acrimony, it was barely five years for them. This is a fact that remains ever burning at the back of our minds as we attempt to renovate and restore our little cottage on the village green.

When we first got the keys, I walked into the front room to find a bouquet of flowers and a note from the previous owners. It wished us well, but reading between the lines it was clear that the place pretty much did for them.

Like us, they attempted to live in it while sorting it out. I can only imagine what they went through, what rows they had over their plans, as my partner Will and I set about the task of stripping crumbling walls and ceilings.

I hate to be superstitious, but at times like this I find myself believing in vague notions to do with “the energy” of a place, or whether there is a “good vibe”.

Almost immediately, despite the sad note, I felt the house was welcoming us. We hung my crucifix from the Holy Land next to the front door, while a statue of Mary I have had since I was a child went on a high shelf.

Within a few hours, however, we had a taste of what had, perhaps, thwarted the previous owners. As Will began hacking back the weeds in the garden, there was a bang at the door and then immediately an incessant ringing of the bell.

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